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Mature album from
the Didi man

Kenza presents a Khaled experimenting soberly with African and Latin sounds. His fusion seems to have come of age

Khaled Hadj Brahim
Rs 125

Described as the King of Rai (an Algerian music style), Khaled has come a long way with his latest offering, Kenza. (In Arabic, kenza means treasure, it also happens to be his second daughter's first name!)

Indians identify Khaled with Didi, an upbeat number that catapulted him to instant fame. Kenza is vastly different from his earlier albums, in that it is a long overdue international crossover.

In Kenza, Khaled mixes the sounds of R&B and reggae with traditional north African rai-funk, salsa and trance-like dervish grooves. Kenza in fact opens a new chapter in his repertoire. The most aired song from this album, El harba wine, is also the pick of the album. Anglo-Asian singer Amar sings this lively duet with Khaled. She sings in Hindi while Khaled sings in Arabic! And there's more of India in the video, shot in Mumbai with Indian models and in total Bollywood style!

Other pleasant surprises: With Noa, Khaled does a very interesting Arabic cover version of John Lennon's evergreen classic, Imagine. This is fusion at its best. The very idea of a Arabic cover version is unusual. This is where you regret your lack of knowledge of Arabic/Algerian, but you also realise that it does not really hamper your enjoyment of the album!

Another strikingly romantic number is C`est la nuit. Khaled now lives in France and is hugely popular there! This French number opens very much like Sting's Fields of Gold, but drifts to a beautiful melody further down. Interestingly, you also find shades of A R Rahman's Khamosh raat from Thakshak -- very fine nuances actually. 'C`est la nuit' means 'It is the night', and you know what 'Khamosh raat' means! Makes you dwell into the connection between Khaled, Sting and Rahman. Talk of global coincidences!

E`dir E`sseba, with typical British grooves, Ya aachkoo with its rather Indian tune and rhythm, and Melha are the other good compositions on Side A.

Side B has more abstract numbers like El bab and El aadyene. Another number, Derwiche tourneur, has a very unstructured tune, with extended percussion interludes that remind you of Carlos Santana's earlier works. There's also an Arabic version of C`est la nuit, which is as good as the French one!

Khaled's earlier works were catchy. Albums like Didi, N'ssi N'ssi and Sahra featured numbers that hooked your attention. But Kenza is a more mature album. N'ssi N'ssi was, till now, his finest album, with lots of native sounds and little of jarring fusion. And now Khaled's fusion seems to have come of age in Kenza.

Karthik S

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